Taylor, Dr. Gregory

2013 Outstanding Contribution to the Alberta Science and Technology Community, Winner

Dean of Science, University of Alberta 2002 - 2012

Professor of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science

University of Alberta

Dr. Gregory Taylor led the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Science for a decade. During that time he distinguished himself as a driving force behind modernizing the teaching philosophy in the Faculty, promoting interdisciplinary teaching and research and the construction of one of the top interdisciplinary academic science facilities in Canada. He retired from that role in 2012 and has gone back to teaching and researching.

Dr. Taylor reflects on his accomplishments as Dean.

“In a leadership role it is important to interpret the external environment through the lens of what it means for the institution and possibilities for its future,” he explains. “Then we need to engage people and enable them so we have the ability to do bigger things, because you can’t do it by yourself.”

A big believer in having fun, Dr. Taylor is enjoying his return to research and teaching.

“Discovery is a very powerful joy,” he says “as is the joy of sharing that joy with students.” Dr. Taylor also takes joy from undertaking enormous challenges – like building the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS).

“We were seeing increased demand for a BSc at the university and we didn’t have the capacity for more degrees or more students,” he says. “That was worthy of my attention and we knew we could make a difference.”

Dr. Taylor was also strongly motivated by the concept of a cross-disciplinary science centre that would better integrate the university’s resources, foster development of innovative skills and attract critical talents and international participation. Dr. Taylor promoted the idea of creating more capacity for teaching students, and combining it with investment in an interdisciplinary research centre, unique in Canada.

The result is CCIS, a gold-standard teaching and research facility that provides space for more students and researchers, including 2,200 new lecture theatre seats, 648 lab seats, 230 computing lab seats, and research space for 100 faculty and their staff. Six groups share the facility – all of which contribute to research, innovation and discovery. The building’s transparent design uses large amounts of glass inside the building, so students can literally see science happening around them all the time.

“Science has changed over the decades. Historically discovery was driven by individuals – like Einstein. Today, many big discoveries are made by teams of people,” Dr. Taylor explains. “We have 100 principal investigators from six different departments that are working on common topical interests and coming at them from a different disciplines.” He adds that the teaching in the campus reflects the change too.  

Dr. Taylor championed the introduction of new programs aimed at small-group, cross-disciplinary study. Among them is Science 100, a full-year course that explores the concepts and foundations of several scientific disciplines in an integrated hands-on manner.

This investment means that the Faculty of Science at the University of Alberta is now able to attract the best and the brightest for research and study. Already more world-class researchers seek out opportunities to study and work there.

“We built the building to bring people together across historical boundaries to foster discovery,” Dr. Taylor says.

In 2013 this unique building received a Design Award of the American Institute of Architects and has been certified at the Silver level by LEED Canada for its sustainable design.